By Meena Banerjee
During the 12th SaMaPa Sangeet Sammelan held from 2 to 4 December 2016, at Kamani Hall in Delhi, it was proved what a commonly heard evening raga like Yaman (slow Ektaal and fast Teental khayals) can do when reverentially treated by a maestro like Venkatesh Kumar. His pathos-ridden, innovative phrases and taans, highlighted by his sur-filled, robust, rich voice and immaculate sense of balancing emotions with virtuosity made the recital captivating. Sensitively supported by Keshav Joshi (tabla) and Vinay Mishra, he also sang two traditional compositions in raga Jaijaiwanti (medium-paced Jhaptaal and fast Teental) replete with sparkling taans and pin-pointed tihais.
The latter was the most thrilling charm of Kathak maestro Rajendra Gangani’s recital as the grand finale of the three-day extravaganza. It was amazing how, during the footwork, he used each part of his foot-sole for different effects with equal dynamism and how accurately he hit each of the sam (first beat of the rhythmic cycle). His forceful, masculine movements were supported by an equally inspired Fateh Singh Gangani’s tabla and young Rishi Upadhyay’s pakhawaj. He essentially presented pure dance in Teentaal; and, for a brief abhinaya, chose a beautiful bhajan Pavan mand sugandh set to Roopak.
The most commendable part of this soiree was its focus on dhrupad. While young dhrupad-duo Milan (vocal) and Mahima (pakhawaj), daughters-disciples of Pandit Ravishankar Upadhyay, regaled the listeners with their stimulated but brief recital (Bagesree Chautaal and Adana Sooltaal); Ustad Wasifuddin Dagar’s elaborate alap in raga Jaijaiwanti was soothingly melodious. The jod segment focussed on emulating the aural effects of pakhawaj (unlike other Dagars who replicate the veena). For this he included some other-than-usually-accepted vowels. It was interesting; but soon after he lost the accuracy of pitch in the upper reaches. However, with the able support of pakhawaj maestro Mohan Shyam Sharma, delighting bol-baant (rhythmic divisions of lyrics) in Chautaal (Muraliya kaise baaji) compensated nicely. He also sang raga Malkauns.
Bhajan Sopori showcased the versatility of his modified santoor with usual élan while playing raga Kausi Kanada (slow Ektaal and fast Teentaal) heavily decked up with meend, gamaka and delicate krintan-like phrases. His masterly crafted rhythmic variants received brilliant answers on the tabla of Rashid Mustafa Thirakwa. Even at a break-neck speed, both displayed superb anticipation and replies. The following Kafi-tappa was unique. A lot of ‘gitkiri’-like loops were created by the maestro with telling effect.
These fine embellishments were accompanied by purab ang gayaki’s nuances when thumri exponent Malini Awasthi offered Najuk baiyan kyun marori (Khamaj) with beautiful bol-banao. Supported by Dharmanath Mishra (harmonium), Ramkumar Mishra (tabla) and Murad Ali’s emotive sarangi, the laggi, for crisp rhythmic effect, could do with fewer words though. Next Kafi-Piloo, set to Addha, arrived with superbly emoted lyrics. She concluded with her guru Girija Devi’s oft-sung Deewana kiye Shyam; but gave it her own stamp very effectively. Before this she also paid tributes to Rahat Ali, her previous guru, through a Pahadi dadra with unmistakable Punjabi (Patiala) flavour. Jadua daar gayi, a lively ‘Tona’-dadra (Keeravani) was the penultimate item of her enthralling recital.
The young turks Kamal Sabri (sarangi) with Rafiuddin Sabri (tabla), and Abhay Rustam Sopori (santoor), with Mithilesh Jha (tabla) and Rishi Upadhyay (pakhawaj), chose rare ragas for their recitals. While Sabri played raga Saugandh, Sopori etched Nirmalkauns with a rare gat composition set to ten-and-a-half beats. Both virtuosos, undoubtedly, are stylish representatives of their respective traditions and promise a great future. Other participants were Gaurav Mazumdar (sitar) with Akram Khan (tabla), Bholanath Mishra (vocal) with Durjay Bhaumik (tabla) along with Zakir Dhaulpuri (harmonium) and Mehtab Ali Niazi (sitar) with Romaan Khan (tabla).
Though the motto of the Sopori Academy of Music and Performing Arts (SaMaPa) is ‘Jan-jan tak sangeet’ (music to the masses), this national level platform for presentation, propagation, and teaching of traditional music and performing arts, apparently, also treads in the arena of fine arts under the dynamic stewardship of Bhajan Sopori and his son-disciple Abhay Rustam Sopori. The flower-bedecked foyer of the famous venue wore the look of an art exhibition with vibrantly colourful paintings by artists from Kashmir.
Widely acclaimed as a ‘cultural bridge’ of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of the country, SaMaPa has created a new generation of connoisseurs that recognises the contribution of individuals for their tireless efforts in propagating and keeping the traditional folk and classical culture alive. The award ceremony preceding the musicals on the last two days proved this point when Baba Yogendra and Dr. Shobha Kosar (heads of cultural institutions dedicated to promotion and propagation of Indian art and culture), Venkatesh Kumar (veteran classical vocalist), Kamal Sabri (young sarangi exponent), Abdul Rashid Hafiz and Gulzar Ahmad Ganaie (Kashmir’s folk singers) and this writer (music appreciation and musicology) were warmly felicitated.